Competencies for your staff

American Library Association Annual Conference–2008

Friday, June 27, 2008, 8:30 – 5:00 pm

Competencies for Your Staff: From Implementation to Integration  and Implementing a Staff Development Plan

 Summarized by: Safi S. M. Safiullah, Reference Librarian, The Salt Lake City Public Library System

The speakers discussed how to prepare a successful staff development day to train competent staff for the libraries. The staff is the foundation of the library; individuals need to improve their skills in technology and customer services in order to serve the public better. Therefore, it is important to measure their skills. The speakers discussed various methods for measuring skills. One of the methods was to organize a conversation café, either quarterly or bi-monthly, where staff will sit in a circle, get to know each other, exchange their knowledge through casual conversation, discuss issues with others, and propagate their success stories. Library management also can send a memo with a questionnaires or surveys to staff to assess their knowledge in various skills such as software packages, listening skills, telephone courtesy, and reference and customer services. The staff will have a chance to rate them as low, moderate or high in each category. Other assessment can also be done by interviewing individual staff, reviewing their performance plans, and observing their skills in the workplace.

 Data found from the measurements can be used to determine where the staff needs to improve their skills. The library management needs to review the outcome of the assessment and divide them into different categories. Each topic needs to be researched before these can be included in the training plan. During staff development day, a flexible training session can be organized, in which staff would be trained by various trainers. The trainers can be brought from outside the system, from state or local libraries, or from within the library system. The trainers should be flexible in their methods. Besides their presentation, there should be hands on activities and exercises, where staff gets hands-on practice. The staff should be given chances to discuss their issues and a collective solution should be carefully implanted by the system.

The speakers discussed in detail how to write a staff development plan, and then distributed samples of these plans from various library systems. Lively discussions took place when speakers defined the staff development and training is a “continual process that orients, trains, and develops each individual throughout his/her association with the library.” The library should do as much as possible to improve the employees’ skills.  However it is also widely agreed that it is the “responsibility of each individual to assess his/her needs and seek opportunities for personal growth.” In order to have a successful staff development plan, the presenters suggested that the library needs to form a staff development committee (SDC) with a clear vision and mission. The responsibilities and duties of the library administration, staff development committee members, continuing education coordinator, department heads, supervisors, and staff members were discussed as pillars to the success of the staff development plan.

The main Speakers were: Cal Shepard, Solinet, Thomas W. Galante, Director; Queens Library; Betha Gutsche, Curriculum Developer, WebJunction, Lori Reed, Training Specialist, Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Catherine Vaughn, Continuing Education Coordinator, Lee County Library System and Pat Tavis, Consultant, Pat Tavis Consulting and a few others.

I will also include some of the references and resources that were distributed during the session:

Books and Journals:

Abella, Kay T. Building Successful Training Programs, a Step-by-Step Guide. Reading,  Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1985.

Brier, David J. and Vickery Kaye Lebbin. “Laulima: Staff Development, Hawaiian-Style.” (Oct. 2001) 46-48.

Creyh, Sheila D. Effective on the-Job Training. Chicago: ALA, 1986.

Staff Development: A Practical Guide. Prepared by the Staff Development Committee, Personnel Administration Section, Library Administration and Management association, ALA; coordinating editors, Anne Grodzins Lipow and Deorah A. Carver. 1992.




Dynix Institute

InfoPeople (archived webcasts and training materials)








Kovacs Consulting


WebJunction (some)

Archived presentations by the staff of Hennepin County Library



Sources for traditional workshops:

Career Track

Padgett Thompson


Staff Development Clearinghouse


ARL (training skills)

ARL (tips)

Published by

Colleen Eggett

Colleen Eggett is the Library Resources Program Manager for the Utah State Library in Salt Lake City UT.